Powered by

Sports Creatives Podcast: College Football Playoff’s Katie Cavender

Guest Katie Cavender (College Football Playoff)
39:17 min listen

Katie Cavender, Assistant Director of Communications for College Football Playoff, joins Jay F. Hicks on the newly co-branded AthleticsDirectorU and Sports Creatives Podcast.

 

The duo talk about the process of changing the College Football Playoff’s voice on social to be more engaging and less corporate which involved navigating relationships with the organization’s numerous stakeholders to get buy-in.

 

Cavender discusses key partnerships with social networks in telling the College Football Playoff story and strategies on remaining relevant in the digital / social space for the other ten months of the year.

 

The conversation also covers Cavender’s unique creative leadership philosophies which include crediting creatives for their contributions to the organization and much more.

 

Visit the Sports Creatives Podcast website for additional podcast content about creative, social, and digital within college and professionals sports. You can also follow host Jay F. Hicks on Twitter.

 

Full Transcript

 

Jay F. Hicks: Hi everybody, what’s up? It’s Jay F. Hicks. Very happy to be in your ears. I’ll be your host and tour guide. We have a very special show in store for you today. This conversation is part of the Athletic Director U and Sports Creatives Podcast partnership, which is yours truly talking to some of the top senior leaders and executives about leadership and management of creative, digital and social.

 

My guest today is Katie Cavender. She is the assistant director of communications with the College Football Playoff. I like Katie. She’s super talented, a gritty veteran, digital communicator and storyteller. She’s built an amazing career for herself. At the College Football Playoff or the CFP, as many people like to call it, Katie is responsible for strategy and implementation of all things social media and digital media, which also includes the CFP website and mobile app. Their work spans from the beginning of the football season, through the selection committee rankings process to the national championship game, and then throughout the remainder of the year.

 

Before the CFP Katie spent 11 years at the Mountain West Conference as assistant commissioner of advanced media and digital strategy, where she was a key player in the implementation of the three-time Emmy Award winning Mountain West Network. She also had stops at the Pac-12 Conference and Boise State. As you may know, I love talking through the nuts and bolts of social and digital. Today I talk with Katie about the process of changing the CFPs voice to be more engaging and less corporate, which involve navigating through the CFPs numerous stakeholders to get buy in, the CFP strategy to staying relevant on social in the other 10 months of the year, her unique creative leadership philosophies that include crediting creatives for their work, and much more, I think you’re going to like our conversation in all of the nitty gritty. And I can’t wait to take you there.

 

Please listen in as I get together with Katie Cavender. But before we do, this episode was produced by the Spades Media Group.

Hey, Katie, welcome to the show.

 

Katie Cavender: Thanks for having me, Jay. Longtime listener, first time caller, I guess.

 

I love it. I love it. And one of the things here, we’re on location here at the College Football Playoff offices, beautiful offices and just really appreciate you hosting us.

 

Sure. Thanks for making the trip up to Dallas.

 

Yeah, thank you. Thank you. We’re going to jump, dive right into it right.

 

Sure.

 

Because this is the time of year where people listening want to talk about the College Football Playoffs.

 

Mm-hmm.

 

One of the things that we do have to do a little bit of housekeeping.

 

Sure.

 

So one of the things I want to just establish with people is we’re going to talk about stakeholders throughout this whole conversation, right?

 

Yeah.

 

Which is key to the CFP for athletic campuses.

 

Mm-hmm.

 

How do you define stakeholders for the College Football Playoff?

 

Sure. So I’d say we’ve got internal and external stakeholders. Of course, we’ve got our internal folks with our staff here. We’re a staff of about 20 full-time folks and six interns. And then that gets extended, of course, to our broadcast partners with ESPN, all of our planning partners and vendors who we work with to execute the national championship game, things of that nature. And then, as it relates to external stakeholders, we’ve got a myriad of them. We’ve got the participating teams that, of course, will come and be a part of national championship week with us.

 

Right.

 

We’ve got all of their fan bases and all of the audiences that they define. And then we’ve got college football fans in general and the media as well that, that really love college football, love what it’s about, love the thought or around it, whether good, bad or ugly. And so, so we need to make sure that we have, you know, our hands around all of those different audiences.

 

Yeah, really excited to talk about social, digital with you, because I think you guys do things that are really, you know, elite level.

 

Thanks.

 

Want to talk about the last year or so.

 

Sure.

 

Right. So a little bit longer than that. And I know you’ve had a, you know, really, an effort to have the voice on social digital to be a little bit less corporate, of a brand voice.

 

Sure.

 

Walk us through the process of doing that.

 

Sure. Yeah. So we, we kind of see things here at the CFP in terms of what our goals are for digital and social to be kind of twofold. The first is still an education component. So I think people get really forgetful that the College Football Playoff hasn’t been around for all that long.

 

Right.

 

We’re only in year six of the current system.

 

Wow.

 

And so, we really need to treat our social and digital voice as a ways to… or as a way to educate all of those stakeholders on what the system is, how it works…

 

Right.

 

…what the rankings protocol is, what the date, certain timelines are for when games are, host sites, all of that nature. So, there’s definitely that educational component. And then the other component is really building the engagement and the camaraderie and rivalry that comes around college football, which I think has helped us as we get our arms around that really fine tune our voice a little bit more so that it is more relatable. We’re really taking advantage of conversation that is happening on our social and digital channels to make sure that we’re part of that and cutting through the noise of all the information that those audiences are, are consuming on a daily basis. And then ultimately, our goal is to make the College Football Playoffs something that’s relevant 12 months out of the year, not just from October to January, but something that’s, you know, College Football is always top of mind for folks, whether it’s through the NFL postseason…

 

Yeah.

 

…or through, you know, going through media days, and all the summer activities that are happening on campuses, you know, part of defining that voice is figuring out ways that the CFP can be part of that as well.

 

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you guys do a good job. We’re going to dive into that in a little bit further in the interview.

 

Thanks.

 

But, but you touched on it, right, athletic directors, presidents, sponsors, student athletes, so many people are involved in the CFP in terms of being stakeholders. I’m sure you’ve had to manage, you know, getting buy-in, right?

 

Sure.

 

You know, it’s kind of like herding cats I would imagine.

 

Absolutely.

 

What did that look like for you and for the staff here?

 

Yeah, you know, we… it’s, it’s an ongoing process. And I think that my coming on board about a year ago, August, was really evidence of the commitment that the College Football Playoff has for its digital on social enterprise as part of our communications and branding staff. My background lies in, in more of a digital and social focus.

 

Right.

 

And so, being able to contribute those skills and the relationships that I have and that the CFP has with, with the social juggernauts that are the folks at Twitter and at Facebook and in Instagram, Snapchat, folks of that nature is really something that, that has been, been a value to us. And then it’s the small victories, right? So, as you continue to, to craft your strategy…

 

Right.

 

…and what tactics you’re going to put out, whether, you know, you’re putting a video together if it’s a live stream or a podcast, or whatever that piece of content is, identifying those small victories and, and using those as a way to kind of build the bigger picture because it’s, you know, Rome wasn’t built overnight.

 

Right, right.

 

And again, the CFP is only in year six. And I think that we’ve made tremendous strides in the year and a half or so that I’ve been here, and of course, the six years that the CFP has been around. So it’s just a real pleasure for me to be able to contribute to that moving forward too.

 

Yeah. So does that involve when you kind of adjusted the voice, right?

 

Mm-hmm.

 

Being more… it seems like there’s a lot of transparency.

 

Yep.

 

It’s more of a humanizing element and, you know, as I go through and I look at the account, I follow the account.

 

Yeah.

 

So, as you did that, did you, is that something you kind of had to run by some of the stakeholders or have conversations?

 

Sure.

 

And I ask this because there’s some people on college campuses, and they’re trying…

 

Yeah.

 

…to figure this out at home.

 

So do we.

 

So we’re trying to help them out a little bit.

 

Absolutely. Yeah, it’s been, it’s been an ongoing dialogue that we have in making sure that our internal folks are really comfortable with, with the stories that we’re telling because it’s, it’s so special and sacred to College Football to making sure that we’re getting it done right, and we’re doing so in a way that everyone is really comfortable with. It kind of starts really back to that education piece. So, making sure that we’re telling people how things operate.

 

Right.

 

And how the rankings process works, all of that stuff…

 

Sure.

 

…kind of helps build that baseline for us.

 

Yeah.

 

And then, and then again it’s, it’s just continuing to chip away at it and throwing a little bit of spaghetti against the wall too. You know, I have always been a believer that in order to be something that’s iconic, you really kind of have to take those risks.

 

Right.

 

But we are really fortunate here at the College Football Playoff that given the, the magnitude of our system and of the event that, that we have the time to really hone in and be really strategic about what those risks are. So, so that’s something that is really fun to work on.

 

Yeah, no, I love it. I love it. So one of the things the CFP has done a really good job is you guys have great partnerships with the sport content team, such as, you know, Facebook and Twitter. Talk about how those relationships came about and how they have proven to be so valuable to you.

 

Yeah, so we are really fortunate and I actually entered my time here at the CFP with some pre-established relationships with the David Herman’s and Nick Marquez, Will Yoders, all of those guys down the list that we are so grateful for and the hashtag SM Sports Community, and they had existing relationships with the CFP as well. You know, those platforms really treat the national championship is one of their major tentpole events.

 

Right.

 

Which is, which was something that we’re extremely, extremely grateful for. And they… we typically work with them on a pretty big activation that happens game week where they will bring folks in and help create content and tell the stories of what’s happening around the national championship game…

 

Sure.

 

…around Media Day, that is, that is content that helps with their brands. It helps tell the CFP story and our brand as well, but it goes as far as the participating teams as well. I keep thinking about, you know, Twitter every year has brought in some production folks for our Media Day and they, they create GIFs and they have a GIPHY station that… where they compile, you know, kids doing funny things as student athletes…

 

Yeah.

 

…you know, really having fun and…

 

That’s cool.

 

…kind of getting away from just the X’s and O’s…

 

Yeah.

 

…and just doing some fun content that, that, you know, Clemson is a defending national champion and they’re still using some of that content now, which is really cool to see during the regular season. But then it also has been really cool to see when those activations take place at our events, that that’s something that the student athletes really gravitate for. So I will never forget, Twitter works with a company called Fresh Tape Media.

 

Right.

 

And they last year set up this locked in concept where they had built a camera on a robot track to kind of film student athletes going through from a press conference scenario, into a locker room and kind of sitting down and all sorts of animated tweets are going all around their head, the end product is really cool.

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

But it was really gratifying as someone who works in digital, social to see the student athletes be as captivated by the production element…

 

Yeah.

 

…before they even saw the end product. Like that was, that was really cool for me to see, like, man, these, these student athletes, this may be something that they’ll want to do someday and that was pretty gratifying.

 

Yeah.

 

So we’re really lucky to have those partnerships.

 

That’s so awesome. And I remember that video. That’s so great.

 

Yeah.

 

I remember that video. And some of the activations you’re talking about, obviously, in addition to what you’re talking about, you guys had the Twitter hashtag, emoji, if you want to talk about that…

 

Absolutely.

 

…which I was one of the first people…

 

Yeah.

 

…when I saw it on my timeline, I had to retweet it.

 

Absolutely. Yeah. So we’re really fortunate. It’s part of, you know, again, being part of the tentpole event package that Twitter and Facebook and Instagram have. They do some really great things for us. And we’re really fortunate that, I believe, for the fourth or fifth year that we’ve got hashtag emojis with Twitter that were launched, just the CFB playoff if those of you out there listening want to follow along, it’s definitely something you want to check that conversation. There’s, you know, CFP branding around that. We work with them on. And then we’ll work with the participating teams on selection data to play with their institutional hashtags. They’ll have emojis that happen on selection day as well.

 

Yeah.

 

And after the national championship game is part of that whole celebration, there’s actually a hashtag emoji trophy that Twitter sends to campus. So last year was the second year of it. Alabama won it two years ago, Clemson last year, where there’s a physical trophy of the hashtag emoji that the schools get…

 

I love it.

 

…which they can add to their trophy case which is really awesome.

 

I love that.

 

But then, as part of that gift too they get a year, basically, they get their hashtag in emoji form for an entire year.

 

For an entire year.

 

So if you’re still tweeting #allin you’ll see a tiger paw that’s been in place since last January, which we’re pretty excited about offering that as part of our partnership with the participating teams and with Twitter as well.

 

Yeah, no, I love it. It’s really paid off for you guys. And I think one of the things you guys do really well, and you touched on this a little bit earlier, but, you know, a lot of bowl games struggle or events for that matter struggle, you know, to be relevant.

 

Mm-hmm.

 

Those are 10 months out of the year.

 

Absolutely.

 

And obviously, the CFP is significantly bigger than, you know, one individual bowl game. Talk about how you guys have been able to really be relevant in this space. And you talked Twitter, how, you know, it’s the kind of the noisy social digital space.

 

Sure. Yeah, you know, it’s, it’s always an interesting thing that we’re always trying to figure out ways to do that and to stay cutting edge.

 

Right.

 

And, you know, we typically have the most eyes on, on our content during the times that it makes most sense to from the first set of selection committee rankings through the national championship game. But if we can identify ways and to repurpose some of the content that we’re capturing throughout national championship week, to build some educational components, again, about the CFP Foundation and our Extra Yard for Teachers platform, that’s something that is really an equalizer for us in terms of making us relevant year-round.

 

Right.

 

So from, you know, Teacher Appreciation Day and in the spring all the way through Extra Yard for Teachers week in September, that’s something that we’re really passionate about and our philanthropic arm of the College Football Playoff that, that gives us an opportunity to tell stories. But then again, it goes back to kind of that education pieces…

 

Right.

 

…all just kind of making sure that people know that the CFP brand is around and that, you know, we’re not just focusing too on this year’s National Championship but are already working toward next year in 2021 in Miami and Indianapolis following that, and Los Angeles and Houston a couple years after. So it’s… there’s always content to be told. And I think we’re just scratching the surface on and finding ways to continue that dialogue.

 

Yeah. And then talk about, I saw it on, on Twitter, you know, some of the things you did with bringing people in the summer into the office.

 

Sure. Yeah. We… we’re really lucky that they come in and we get to have some touch points and have those conversations early and often. And one really cool thing that we’re really grateful for is in this, in this late, late summer, early fall we do mock rankings exercises where we bring in various stakeholder groups that meet with us and, and they basically sit in the selection committee room and they, they sit in the seat and they are given a specific year of data and they’re able to go through the process just as the selection committee would. And what that offers us is, again, another educational piece that we can kind of tell the CFP story, how it all works, and then also build interest around that.

So this year we did some really cool stuff. And we’re able to do some live streaming with the ESPN mock rankings exercise and then also the national media and as part of that, TJ Adeshola, the head of sports for Twitter actually joined us as part of the National Media Group, which was really terrific. And so we streamed it on Twitter. We streamed the ESPN component on Facebook and had, you know, 10s of thousands of viewers watch, watch that process take place which was really fascinating. And again, another way that we can kind of lift the veil a little bit…

 

Yeah.

 

…and build some awareness and some education that, that continue to get people talking and it also helps maybe with a better understanding, ideally, of just how the system all works, because it’s pretty complicated…

 

Yeah.

 

…if you dive deep into it.

 

And, no, I love the transparency.

 

Absolutely.

 

Bringing people in and it also kind of humanizes the organization.

 

Mm-hmm.

 

So it’s not like just the acronym everyone says, the CFP. But…

 

Yeah, absolutely. People, people, I think, identify and relate to content that is not just a broadcast mechanism.

 

Right.

 

That’s not just a logo speaking at them…

 

Yeah.

 

…but in a way is to just kind of inject your brand into, into the dialogue and the conversations that are already having. I think it’s pretty important to do that.

 

Yeah. Now onto the content that you guys do.

 

Yeah.

 

You have three people here. We’ve talked about this, kind of, at the top of the interview…

 

Sure.

 

…went through some of the people here but to have three people in the CFP office, go through that and share with us how do you get it all done.

 

Sure.

 

I look at the Twitter feed. I look, I love the graphics…

 

Sure. Thanks.

 

…that you guys released. I think it was a couple of weeks ago. Talk about how you guys are able to get all the work done.

 

Sure. Yeah. So we, as Jay mentioned, we have a, our communications and branding department as two full-time folks, my boss, Brett Daniels is our senior director and I’m at the assistant director level and then we’ve got an intern who assist us as well. I mean, our department handles all things from media operations and media relations to communications pieces and branding, all the way down to the digital and social components. And so…

 

Wow. So, so I’m going to stop you right there.

 

Yeah.

 

So basically, for many college campuses, you’re doing what is kind of the SID role part of it…

 

Mm-hmm.

 

…in terms of the, the interaction with the media.

 

Absolutely.

 

And then there’s a PR side of it.

 

Absolutely.

 

And then there’s the social part.

 

Yep.

 

Which is just in and of itself.

 

Yep.

 

And then there’s also the creative part, and I know you have partners.

 

Yeah.

 

But you guys, the three people, are covering all of these areas.

 

Absolutely. Yeah.

 

Okay. I just wanted to point that out.

 

Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s a lot to wrap our arms around, that is for sure. And I would, you know, we, of course, got a lot of opportunity ahead of us to continue to grow. But, but it all happens.

 

Yeah.

 

And we make it work and we’re really, really grateful for the internship program that we have here as well to bring in some fresh minds to help us, again, stay relevant…

 

Yeah.

 

…stay current, kind of stay ahead of trend. That’s been really valuable to us. And then we’ve got, with some of those planning partners and vendors we have, we’ve got great relationships with a couple of folks that help us, a, with our print collateral that we produce, and then our large-scale signage. And I came into the CFP thinking that there’s got to be a way to bridge what those visual identities that are telling that your story of the national championship are and why not extend that and kind of weave that all together with the national championship in our social and digital endeavor. So we started that last year in the fifth anniversary of the CFP in Silicon Valley at Santa Clara. And, and this year, we’ve kind of extended that as well. So there’s, there’s a couple components. We’ve got some visual identity that’s kind of a mist fog, swampy…

 

Yeah.

 

…New Orleans kind of dark feel. And then as we get deeper into it, we kind of open up and there will be a really colorful kind of more, more party and more French Quarter atmosphere that’s, that’s really celebratory on this really bright and different and that’s been kind of fun for us to identify those what those branding elements are from year to year that kind of relate to the host city and then finding ways that we can interweave that into all of our visual identity, especially in digital and social. And there’s one thing that I’m really excited about this year, we were able to find a way to weave in the iron work that you see on patios…

 

Yes.

 

…and the French Quarter and find ways that you can…

 

Which I love.

 

Yeah.

 

That’s why I was mentioning it very early, I love because, because it almost drew me in, right.

 

Yeah.

 

And it kind of evoke the emotions of trips that I’ve had down there.

 

Totally.

 

That’s when I saw that.

 

Yeah, and we, we try to be really, really focused on finding ways that’s not maybe the most obvious…

 

Right.

 

…for the host city but to be really thoughtful to pay homage to, to those cities and to really like make sure that we’re also pulling at the heartstrings of the host community because they’re, they’re just as important to make our national championship week as a success as, as we are as a staff.

 

Right.

 

Because we’re visitors. And so, we want to leave some sort of a legacy there and pay homage. So, we’re pretty excited about the visual stuff that we’re doing.

 

No, I love it. I love the emotions.

 

Great.

 

Because you got me. You got me on that. Because I love the Crescent City.

 

Yeah.

 

I love it. I love it. So walk us through game week.

 

Sure.

 

Because I know before, we’ve talked a little bit about the other 10 months.

 

Mm-hmm.

 

But now they’re… talk about how, again, the work, how it’s done.

 

Sure.

 

Partners, because now it’s like go time in another level.

 

Yeah, and it’s go time. Yeah. So we’ve got various or a variety of endeavors that we are involved with during game week. And from a content, digital and social content perspective we do a lot of planning and website and mobile app is something that falls under our purview as well. And so, we’re always finding ways to make our mobile app like your event companion.

 

Right.

 

So, mobile ticketing is there. We’ve got interactive maps. We’ve got various activation points and, and some augmented reality that we’re executing during game week that we’re really excited about. And then as, as it relates to the social components, there’s also like the theme of education continues and making sure that folks know when, when events start, when a concert is taking place where people can enter those various events. There’s all of that that we try to prep as much as we can in advance, and then we integrate that with the content that we produce on site. So we are really fortunate, we bring in a team of about 15 either recent or current students, or, you know, recent grads, current students from universities across the country…

 

Okay.

 

…who help the… who help us as the brightest minds in, in content creation. We work with them and we bring them on as a, on a volunteer basis, but really provide them with access and opportunity to cover something that they may not have access to…

 

Oh, yeah.

 

…in advance and, or ever before. And so we, they’re an extension of us. They help us tell those stories. And so, we are in sync with, with all of that. And we cover all of our different fan events. We have seven or eight of those that happen, National Championship weekend, in addition to the game itself.

 

Right.

 

And so, they help us kind of make blanket coverage, all of that stuff in addition to the content that our great friends at Twitter and Facebook and Instagram are also creating as well. And then we’re also in lockstep with the participating teams. And they’re, they’re the pros at producing social content really once they get to, to December and January, you know, they’re at the end of their football season. So it’s kind of old hat to them.

 

Yeah.

 

So finding ways that we can assist them and offer them whatever, whatever they may need to get, to get their jobs done and then vice versa. They’re, they’re more than willing to share with us as well. So there’s lots of tentacles to the octopus so to speak. But we’re really grateful for that. And we do all we can to blanket coverage as much as we can. Because it’s important for us not only to have that information for folks who make the trip to National Championship weekend.

 

Right.

 

But it’s also, I think, is important for us to identify ways to bring that access to folks who may not be able to make the trip.

 

Right.

 

So if you’re sitting at home, and you’re a college football fan, you still feel like you’re there.

 

Yeah.

 

And that goes all the way through, of course, the National Championship game and with the content that we’re doing, and in conjunction with the great people that at ESPN as well, we also work in sync with them on that.

 

Yeah. And one of the things I love that, that you guys are doing there is you’re… it sounds like you’re taking a lot of the questions that you’re getting, right, or that you would get and, and taking that and making it content, right…

 

Absolutely.

 

…because there’s people like figuring out how do I fill out my content calendar at different times of the year.

 

Yeah.

 

And that’s like something that I feel like sometimes overlooked.

 

Totally.

 

But it’s like golden content.

 

Absolutely. Yeah. It’s important to just identify opportunities when you can and to, I think we sometimes get ourselves caught up as practitioners and maybe ourselves getting bored and what the messaging is.

 

Right. Yeah.

 

And we sometimes forget that the audiences may need to see things more than once. That if you’re putting…

 

Oftentimes, right.

 

Yeah, so if you’re putting something out that’s, that’s an educational piece, you know, if you if you’ve tweeted at once, or if you’ve posted on Instagram story once, like you may have captured people then…

 

Right.

 

But it may not have happened permanently.

 

Yeah.

 

So there’s, there’s some power in that repetition.

 

No, I love it. Because sometimes, and I have this, this conversation with other colleagues, I… we always have to remind ourselves that content isn’t for us.

 

Absolutely.

 

You know…

 

Absolutely.

 

Like, we’re tired of hearing about it.

 

Yeah.

 

And the people at home are just not picking, like, “Oh, wait, you said, where is the concert?”

 

Yeah.

 

You know what I mean? Out in the third or fourth time that you now…

 

Absolutely.

 

…communicated about it.

 

Yeah, and I think there’s also value… I know that we could probably have a whole other episode on all of the other events that we do beyond football.

 

Sure.

 

But there’s also ways if we go back to the conversation about stakeholders, you know, we offer so many different events during National Championship week that may not speak to just a college football fan. But we’ve got, for instance, we’ve got a 5K run.

 

Right.

 

We’ve got a culinary event that’s a fundraiser for our foundation that is really for foodies. You know, we’ve got concerts and festivals and all sorts of different things that speak to all sorts of different audiences as well. So how can we also find ways to kind of touch those points and build as much audience as we can?

 

Yeah, I love that.

 

Yeah.

 

One of the things you said earlier that stuck out to me, you said, “In order to be iconic, you must take risks.”

 

Sure.

 

And you kind of broke that down for what it means for the CFP.

 

Yeah.

 

What have you found that, you know, what is… what have you found that to mean for your career and for the career of people in art, in the creative social space?

 

Yeah, absolutely. You know, I, I was telling Jay offline that that moving to Dallas to the College Football Playoff is the furthest east and the further south I’ve ever lived.

 

Right, right.

 

I’m native of the West Coast and had spent the previous 11 years before coming here to the CFP at the Mountain West Conference. That’s, I’m a graduate of the Mountain West school in Nevada. My brothers were offensive lineman for Boise State. So those schools are…

 

Spent time at Washington.

 

Spent time in Washington. Yes. So the West Coast is near and dear to my heart.

 

Yeah.

 

And the Mountain West having spent that much time there also is a place that I’m, I’m really grateful for having spent that amount of time. And when this opportunity came up at the College Football Playoff, it was difficult to kind of step outside of the, the norm and to, to kind of take that risk. In order to be iconic, you have to take risks.

 

Yeah.

 

But I had some really great support from my family at the Mountain West with… from Commissioner Thompson on down that kind of encouraged me, you know, this is, this is a once a lifetime opportunity…

 

Yeah.

 

…to work on something that’s as, as prolific for college sport as the College Football Playoff. And so, having that having that encouragement that that family will still always be there, whether it’s your work family or your actual family…

 

Right.

 

…was something that was really valuable and appreciate that, that push to kind of cross the finish line to kind of make that transition. But that started all the way back from, you know, my, my family, originally from Northern Nevada, we’re ranchers, and so we’re kind of a little bit of a pioneering spirit.

 

Love that.

 

And after I graduated from undergrad, I went to the University of Nevada. And before I went to Washington for undergrad, or for my graduate studies, excuse me, I applied to be an intern for the Pac-10. And that was something that they at the Pac-10 didn’t often take students that were graduates from schools that were outside of the Pac-10.

 

Yeah, absolutely.

 

But I, but I took the risk and got the job and was hired to do so. So I think that that’s something that it’s important to kind of push yourself out of your comfort zone. That’s the only way that there is for growth, and we’re never, we’re never fully done.

 

Yeah.

 

So I’m just really grateful that, you know, hard work, plus a little bit of, bit of luck and a little bit of risk has led to some really tremendous opportunity.

 

Yeah, I love, so you’re talking about zigging when others are zagging.

 

Yeah, you got to. You got to. You got to try. Sometimes it’s hard.

 

Yeah.

 

And sometimes, you know, sometimes practice what I say not as much as I do, I’ll be honest with you.

 

I think that’s all of us. Yeah.

 

Yeah, but it, but, but to do so in a way that’s, that’s strategic and that’s smart and that feels, feels good for what you want to accomplish for yourself I think is really valuable.

 

Yeah. You know, and that, and that really segues into my next…

 

Sure.

 

…you know, topic, which is, you know, I think on social, you know, sometimes people like take someone who’s maybe in college right now, or just starting the business and they look at folks, they look at you and they look at other people who are, who have reached a certain level of success, and they think it’s an overnight thing.

 

Sure.

 

Like it happened from zero to 10,000 in like overnight.

 

Right, yeah.

 

But it’s not right. There’s, there’s, there’s successes, but there’s also failures. There’s also hiccups.

 

Absolutely. Yeah.

 

On this show, one of the things I love to do is just, you know, talk about those so that people, you know, because we’re all in this thing together…

 

Sure.

 

…is kind of my philosophy, right?

 

Yeah.

 

You’re, you have your battles here, but there’s other people and the struggles who are at a campus location or one of our vendors and they’re dealing with some similar issues.

 

Yeah.

 

Talk about some of the either hiccups, failures, successes you’ve either had.

 

Sure.

 

Like personally in your career or professionally in your career…

 

Yeah.

 

…or here at the CFP as you’ve been kind of navigating the social digital space.

 

Sure, absolutely. I was thinking about this, a little bit this morning, I, during my time at the Mountain West, I, there’s a relationship with a friend of mine that worked as, an SID at, at San Diego State, and he used to always make fun of me. There were a few instances probably on, on more than one hand that I could count that, you know, things are fast and furious and you’re trying to put things out and then go on to the next thing and where I would catch myself kind of tweeting and then immediately deleting because, you know, there’d be a typo or the score was wrong or whatever that is.

 

Right, right.

 

I think that happens more than people even like even realize.

 

Oh, no, yeah.

 

And so, Darren Wong, who was at San Diego State at the time now at Harvard used to always send me a text tweet then delete, like he just give me, give me a little bit of teasing when that would happen. Yeah, but, but that, I mean, it’s important to keep yourself accountable…

 

Yeah.

 

…and for others to keep you accountable as well. I think that that’s really valuable. I think that there’s just so much going on. And sometimes we have a tendency to just be so focused on the task list that we forget to maybe slow down, to proof, to see what’s in front of us.

 

And it’s sped up, right, I mean…

 

But it totally has sped up.

 

Yeah.

 

It’s even, like it’s, it’s crazy how things have sped up just with the amount of content, a, that we’re consuming, just as, as humans; but then, b, the content that we’re putting out as well, it’s just, I think, it’s really important to be intentional. And so, that’s been something that I’ve really had to learn from. And then it’s, I’m trying to think of another, another example for you in terms of hiccups.

 

But that’s a good one though.

 

Yeah, I mean, tweet, tweet then delete is a pretty good one.

 

Yeah.

 

I mean, no one. I don’t if Anybody out there is a social media manager who hasn’t made a mistake…

 

Right.

 

…I would be really surprised to hear that that would be the case. I wish I had a story that was as entertaining as Tim Brogdon’s shout out to TBrog. But, you know, there’s, there’s a million of those out there and I think we’ve all kind of experienced that and will likely continue to experience that.

 

Yeah, no, I absolutely love it. Want to, want to talk about leadership, right?

 

Yeah.

 

You know, one of the things in our space you and I have kind of talked about it is there’s some opportunities there. And one of the things that, that you did that I absolutely love…

 

Yeah.

 

…I love shouting people out. Like when I see things that’s like really exceptional…

 

Yeah.

 

…is when you are releasing some graphics, to see if you were releasing some graphics over a couple weeks ago, you gave a shout out, like CC’d your interns, right?

 

Yeah.

 

Which is like, I know it sounds simple. It doesn’t happen that often, right, in my feed.

 

Sure.

 

And one of the things I love is now what you’ve done is giving people, of course, their, you’ve shown that, “Hey, you’ve done a good job,” which one is great for creating because then it’s pointing out within the organization…

 

Absolutely.

 

…that their work matters.

 

Sure.

 

But… and that’s really important. But talk about your leadership style and what that means because to me that stood out and my timeline when I’m consuming a lot just like you are.

 

Sure. You know, that’s, I, that means a lot to hear actually. I am a firm believer in, in setting good example. I’m the type that always rolls up their sleeves. And I think we as creatives are the type that, that lead the best by, by doing the work alongside those of us with it. And sometimes that actually can be a detriment…

 

Right.

 

…and getting too focused on actually getting the work done as opposed to taking a step upward or a step backward and, and kind of thinking more about strategy and implications and all of that stuff. But I’m a firm believer in lifting as you climb. So, you know, because we’re so slim and trim here with, with the team that we have, you know, I’ve been really fortunate in the first two interns that I’ve had here at the College Football Playoff, Meagan Bordayo last year, who now is a social publisher for the NBA, I’m really proud of her. And then Janay Hagans, our intern this year, who’s done a really great job at producing content for us, in providing them an example and really making them feel as they’re part of a team, because they really are we, you know, we…

 

And that’s powerful.

 

There’s so few of us, that that…

 

And that’s really powerful.

 

Yeah, there’s so few of us that we need to make sure that, you know, everyone is on the same page.

 

Yeah.

 

And we’re spending so much time together that if we’re not feeling good about what we’re doing and feeling good about each other…

 

Right.

 

…you know, we’re not going to fire on all cylinders. So I think that that’s really important. And then I think it’s also really important to reflect on yourself and what your what your strengths are, and maybe what your areas of weakness are.

 

Right.

 

And in order to kind of, to improve and be the best, best version of yourself, you kind of have to do that introspection and, and know yourself and then that way, you can’t know yourself… you can’t lead yourself without knowing yourself.

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

And you can’t… then you can’t lead others if you don’t know and can lead yourself too. So I think that that’s really important. And I spend a lot of time doing that. And we’re… I’m always, you know, listening to podcasts and finding ways to, to relate with folks. And I think that’s also really valuable. I’ve, I’ve noticed and you may also have witnessed this as well in the SN sports community, I find it really unique compared to maybe other areas of our industry or other industries and that we’re so willing to share and to bounce ideas off and to help when, when folks are down or to celebrate victory and all of that stuff together, I think is a really tremendous community for us. And so, I’ve also taken a lot of inspiration leadership-wise from the community that we have. I think that there’s, there’s a really great, great group around us that that we can all pick brain off of.

 

Yeah, no, I love that because, you know, like, Ty Brown does the 1Q podcast. And one of his things is like the role of a leader is to create, maintain an environment…

 

Yeah.

 

…that people want to be part of.

 

Absolutely.

 

Right. So we can talk about it, right?

 

Yeah.

 

And so, you know, but, but that’s really cool because what you’re doing is you’re, you’re executing on it.

 

Absolutely.

 

And by, you know, empowering people by, you know, I think positive affirmation is always a great…

 

Big time.

 

…you know, team builder. So it’s really cool to hear what you’re doing.

 

Absolutely. And I think that there’s… it’s so easy to, it’s so easy to forget positive affirmation, but it’s also so easy and so free to do it to say please, to say thank you, to be gracious, to be excited about the stuff that your folks are doing around you.

 

Right.

 

I think that there’s a lot of value in that and I think it’ll speak volumes because people tend to, you know, if you hear, you know, mean tweets, or whatever it is, those things kind of stick with us, but so why not make an effort to, to be more positive as well.

 

No, that’s, that is super… that is super dope. You dropped some really big dimes here today.

 

Oh, I hope so.

 

Yeah, you did. You did. I think the leadership piece and you and I were talking that, that we feel like no matter where you are…

 

Yeah.

 

…everybody has opportunities for leadership.

 

Sure.

 

And so, you’re actually showing…

 

Yeah.

 

…interns from the bottom.

 

Yeah.

 

They’re coming into the industry, right, from wherever campus situation they’re in, you’re showing them that leadership. And so, that’s what so, you know, great, because one of the things that I was thinking while you’re talking is that you’re kind of leaving your legacy in this business, not just on the CFP brand that you’re doing, the Mountain West before that, but now you have these people who are going to take that.

 

Yeah.

 

And that’s so powerful.

 

Well, I think that there’s, I, first of all, I’m very humbled to hear you say that. Thank you for saying that. The… I think that there’s such, such opportunity to lead wherever you are. I don’t think you have to be a full-time employee someplace.

 

Right.

 

I don’t think you have to be in a C-suite position. You can be, you know, you can be an undergraduate working in your university’s athletic department. You can be an intern. You can… all the way up to, you know, a CEO, executive director, athletic director, commissioner-type level, you know, there’s opportunities for leadership wherever you are.

 

Right.

 

So, so why not seize the moment and practice those skills for when you are so lucky to be in a, in a seat like that.

 

Right.

 

There’s no, there’s no time to lead than the present.

 

Yeah. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

 

Of course.

 

Will you come on again because…

 

Anytime.

 

…we could come back, you and I, I actually could thought of like two different episodes that we can do after this. Will you come back on?

 

I’d be honored. I appreciate. I appreciate the opportunity to be on with you and anytime.

 

Yeah, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.

 

Thank you, Jay.

 

All right. That wraps it up. A couple of things before we get out of here. I’m so proud of this partnership with Athletic Director U. More content can be found at AthleticDirectorU.com, that’s Athletic Director, the letter U dot com. I’m Jay F. Hicks. You can find me using the handle @ J-A-Y the letter F, Hicks, Jay F. Hicks all over social media and the internet. Leave me a comment or your questions. I’ll respond as soon as possible. Let’s connect.

 

 

Audio
Dynamic Leadership Podcast – Bryant’s Mike Pressler

Jeff Van Gundy, TV analyst and former NBA head Coach, talks about the leadership lessons he learned from different players and coaches during his coaching career. He addresses the intricacies of working in the NBA and the dynamics between players, coaches, administration, etc. Coach Van Gundy talks in depth about the leadership style of Pat Riley and the impact it had on his career.

Audio
Higher Ed Athletics Podcast: Ohio’s Julie Cromer

In this episode of From the Chair, host Mike Hamilton speaks with Joe Hamilton, Director of Athletics at Colorado State University. Hamilton talks about the benefit of having a new on-campus stadium. CSU decided to build on-campus as opposed to renovating the existing stadium which was located four miles off-campus. Hamilton discusses how this decision and execution has brought a new energy on campus. The conversation also touches on his leadership influences, the importance of detaching every once in while, and who he follows on Twitter.

Audio
Dynamic Leadership Podcast – Cincinnati’s John Brannen

Jeff Van Gundy, TV analyst and former NBA head Coach, talks about the leadership lessons he learned from different players and coaches during his coaching career. He addresses the intricacies of working in the NBA and the dynamics between players, coaches, administration, etc. Coach Van Gundy talks in depth about the leadership style of Pat Riley and the impact it had on his career.